French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian speaks during a press conference in Baghdad, Iraq, July 16, 2020. (Xinhua/Khalil Dawood)
"We had established a relationship of trust with Australia. This trust has been betrayed," French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said, calling Australia's about-face a "stab in the back."
PARIS, Sept. 17 (Xinhua) -- France said on Friday that it cannot trust Australia in its ongoing trade talks with the European Union (EU) after Canberra scraped a deal to acquire French-designed submarines and decided to invest in American nuclear-powered submarines instead. Paris called Australia's about-face a "stab in the back."
"We're having trade negotiations with Australia," France's Secretary of State for European Affairs Clement Beaune told France 24 news channel. "I don't see how we can trust our Australian partners."
The governments of the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia announced on Wednesday the creation of a new trilateral security partnership called "AUKUS" (Australia-UK-U.S.), whose first initiative will be the delivery of a nuclear-powered submarine fleet to Australia.
France considers the deal a "stab in the back," French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Thursday. Back in 2016, Australia signed a contract with France for the purchase of 12 conventional diesel-electric submarines.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (L) greets Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in front of 10 Downing Street, in London, Britain, on June 15, 2021. (Tim Hammond/No. 10 Downing Street/Handout via Xinhua)
"We had established a relationship of trust with Australia. This trust has been betrayed," Le Drian said.
The EU started negotiations with Australia for a free trade agreement (FTA) in 2018. So far, the EU and Australia have been conducting their trade and economic relations under the 2008 EU-Australian Partnership Framework.
In 2020, Australia was the EU's 19th largest trading partner, and the EU was Australia's third largest after China and Japan and before the U.S., according to EU data.
Amid international worries about the proliferation of nuclear material and technology via the deal, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has said in a press release that it will "engage with them (Australia, UK, and the United States) on this matter in line with its statutory mandate, and in accordance with their respective safeguards agreements with the Agency."
China has also voiced opposition against the trilateral move, describing it as a "sheer act of nuclear proliferation."
Such assistance "will apparently give rise to the proliferation of nuclear materials and technologies by openly providing assistance to Australia," said Wang Qun, Chinese envoy to the United Nations and other international organizations in Vienna.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks during the EU-U.S. summit at the EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on June 15, 2021. (European Union/Handout via Xinhua)■